Thursday, December 18, 2008

Send out the right message to young people - I'll drink and smoke to that!

As reported in The Sunday Times last Sunday ‘Drinks industry says no to link with drugs plan’

“An Irish government plan to include alcohol in its national drugs strategy is being opposed by the drinks industry.”
Rosemary Garth, director of the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABF), said: “It is the abuse of alcohol that causes difficulties but it is the [mere] use of drugs that is a problem. They are different issues.”
Well now, there's a surprise from the ABF - turns out alcohol isn't a drug at all...

Transform has been calling for all drugs to be included in the drug strategy for many years now, together with a truly cross departmental approach.

As reported in The Times (30 Nov), ‘Planned curbs on smoking to be axed’

“Ministers have decided they cannot justify some of the more draconian measures to reduce cigarette and alcohol sales during the economic downturn. A proposed ban on shops displaying tobacco, and steps to force tobacco manufacturers to remove logos from cigarette packs are expected to be abandoned, along with proposals to stop supermarkets discounting alcohol. The U-turn follows pressure from backbenchers and trade groups, who argued that there was little evidence to show the steps would have health benefits.”

And: ”It is understood, however, that ministers have reluctantly conceded there is not enough evidence to support the tobacco proposals and have concluded it would “not be in the nation’s best interests” to press ahead. Some in the cabinet feared the crackdown, which included packaging cigarettes in plain “vanilla” boxes with no branding, would jar with the key message about shoring up the economy. Senior Labour sources say the legislative programme is designed to appeal to “white van man”; that is, working-class swing voters who are more likely to smoke and drink.”
Well now, there's a surprise from the Government - they're more committed to populist posturing for political advantage, than protecting their voters' health...

..although, to give them some credit, some of the "less draconian" measures did go through

And from the Mail (25 Nov): 'Rate alcohol and tobacco like illegal drugs, says top scientist'

"The harm done by tobacco and alcohol should be rated on the same system as illegal drugs, a leading scientist said today. Professor Sir Gabriel Horn who chaired a special committee on drug use, warned that dependency on drink and cigarettes was spiralling out of control and urgent measures were needed to curb their misuse. Professor Horn told the Government's drug advisors in London that many people believe alcohol is more harmful than heroin or cocaine.
He told the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs: 'It's been recognised that [alcohol] is the most harmful recreational drug you could use. The risks are very similar to illegal substances."

The Mail article appeared the same day that the Lords made their final valiant attempt to delay the reclassification of cannabis back to Class B.

Doesn't it restore your faith in in our glorious leaders reliance on science and joined up governing? Give me strength...oh, and a "happy hour" bottle of alcopop...


Anonymous said...

Paul C. says...
And now you can drink and smoke to that with Liquid Smoking.
Think I'm joking?

Anonymous said...

Whats wrong with that product anon? It has no addictive drugs - its just a marketting scam - or is that the purpose of your post?

Sunshine Band said...

Many are aware of the hypocrisy extant in the govt not finding enough evidence to justify tighter curbs on drinking/smoking yet readily do so for re-classification of cannabis. However this doesn't mean that greater controls on alcohol and toabacco ought necesarily to be welcome by reformers - remember that the abuse of non-controlled drugs occurs in a false market wherein they are the drugs of choice being the only tolerated drugs. If the less harmful drugs presently controlled were made available, then the abuse profiles of all drug misuse would alter radically and harm would be vastly reduced across the board in my considered opinion.

Steve Rolles said...

I welcome increased controls on alcohol and tobacco when they can be shown to be effective, balanced against any potential infringement of personal freedoms. The most obvious arena for reform, in thge short term is regards restrictions in marketing and promotions. This is increasingly being achieved regards tobacco but there is much further to go regards alcohol.

Sunshine Band said...

Steve, if heroin, a prohibited drug is widely available, and cannabis, a controlled drug is so popular - why do you consider that removing drinks promotions will make getting pissed any less attractive? If alcohol was really controlled according to harm caused in the way that cannabis currently is, we would have illicit production and that people go down for 20 years for smuggling a few kilos of tobacco, and we all know that is not what we want.

I am concerned that many are ignorring the effect of the extent of the present control over drugs, preferring to evaluate them scientifically according to a range of harms without paying heed to the fact that any of the observations we make for the harm of any particular drug (as in the famous Lancet report table) are actually only snapshots of current issues. I think that these harms are so much a product of the irrational prohibitionary and non-prohibtionary regime controlling access to drugs (with attendant consumer protections or otherwise), that it is impossible to identify alcohol or any drug as a truly harmful drug other than in its present context of relative legal availability or otherwise.

Just clamping down on alcohol or even tobacco doesn't sound like it will protect freedoms at all, and it doesn't cause a public backlash as the smoking in pubs ban demonstrated.

With heroin and the drugs described as highly addictive (inc tobacco) - then it is the case that an open-market would also assist in harm-reduction alongside honest education to stop misuse and even people trying them in the first place.

Lets not lose sight of the fact that individual autonomy and responsibilty for drug use is really the only sensible outcome as opposed to a plethora of potentially ridiculous health and safety guidelines about every drug, I'm all for this information being available, and interim regulations being in force, but unless we move towards fosterring responsibility of use by the public being treated as adults, free to make informed choices in an open market, then we will never progress towards a more understanding society as regards drug use. Once that is established, the demand for harmful drugs will naturally die away.

Sunshine Band said...

I reflected on this and wonder how the government justify excluding tobacco and alcohol from scheduling under the MDA at all.

In my last post I said 'prohibited drug' when I ought to have said 'controlled drug'. No drug is prohibited or illegal; it is the people who are prohibited from having property rights in certain drugs. I was actually thinking of a differnt fact about heroin - the fact that under the MDA 1971, opium/heroin is the sole drug subject to such property right curtailments by default.

Steve Rolles said...

theres a big difference between clamping down and preventing active promotion. also, regulation inevitably entails some restrictions - we are not advocating a free for all. If anything that's what we have now with illegal drugs - and used to have with tobacco (albeit a legal free for all not a criminal one). we know regulation can be effective and without being unduly restrictive from our experience with numerous drugs (not to mention other 'vices') over the past 100 years. thgere are important challenges to face and debates to be had about the detail but the basic principles and options are well established.